I have heard that cats don't actually meow in the wild. Kittens only meow to their parents, and the parents to their kittens, and both do it to humans, and that's all.

Is that true? If so, is it for humans specifically?

2 Answers 2


Cats in the wild are solitary animals so vocal communication is not very useful, scent marking is more useful for cats when it comes to keeping other cats away and at the same time give information about the gender and age and when the cat was in the area.

Most of the vocal communication is mother and kittens and this do gradually stop when the kitten gets older, other vocalization is related to reproduction and getting a mate.

Other types of vocalization act as a warning when a cat defends its territory or if other animals comes too close; most of the time this is effective (like cat chase bear type of effective).

Cats that live with people do talk to us as if we were kittens and they learn that we respond to different sounds. If there is more than one cat in a household some vocal communication might happen like the cats might call for each other and purr when they are together but most communication will be by scent.

Cats that live close to each other in a neighborhood and meet outside can develop a friendship. When the cats meet they will sniff each others breath; this happens very quick blink and you will miss it. Vocal communication is rare but the cats might start to purr together in the same way as cats that live in the same house do.


Domestic cats (felis catus) meow in the same frequency band as human babies' crying. Why? Because humans instinctively want to feed things that make that specific noise, so making that noise was an evolutionary adaptation for cats living around humans. When cats learn (during the critical socialization period) that making this sound gets them free food from humans, they keep doing it for life. Feral cats stop when they leave their mother after learning to feed themselves.

Notably, even their closest wild relative (felis sylvestris) meows in a much wider frequency range that does not elicit the feeding instinct in humans but rather makes us want to flee danger. And if you're close enough to hear a wild cat of any size, you probably should run.

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